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From Cattaraugus to Suffolk, the Red Cross responds

The American Red Cross has joined with national and state partners, to undertake a massive response to Hurricane Sandy, with a mission to prevent and alleviate further human suffering.

For the Southwestern New York Chapter, this response began the Wednesday prior to the storm, when we began coordinating with local government and community partners, to prepare shelters, in the event that flooding should occur anywhere in the north, central or southern parts of our county.

We identified 10 standby shelters, alerted our local volunteers and pre-positioned equipment. On the night of the storm, we opened and staffed a shelter at Silver Creek Central School, as the creek began to rise. Local volunteers Charlie Meder, Mary Walker, Patty Hartinger, Jeanie Shiffer and Fran Heath were on hand, throughout the night. No evacuations were required and we began to breathe a sigh of relief.

By the next day, our local and regional organizations worked tirelessly, to move over 30 volunteers from Western New York to the affected areas. I was one of those who volunteered to help and was immediately told to depart for the Greater New York area.

By the afternoon of Nov. 1, I was hard at work, in a shelter in Deer Park, Long Island, where we had over 120 clients’ residing. I spent six days there before we moved to a larger shelter, about 20 miles away. This shelter now has nearly 200 clients and the staff members required to support them, and we are also providing meals, snacks, drinks and health services to those affected, many of whom have lost everything.

As of Nov. 8, we have deployed 5,800 trained Red Cross disaster responders to operations from Virginia to Rhode Island, with the majority in Greater New York and New Jersey. We have provided over 61,000 overnight stays, in more than 250 shelters, served over 3.3 million meals and snacks, and distributed more than 124,000 cleanup kits and hygiene kits. Your help is urgently needed, to ensure we can continue our relief efforts. If you can, I ask that you do just two things:

1. Donate money to your local chapter,, or 1-800-redcross, or text the word “redcross” to 90999. Your money will support our disaster relief operations, both locally and during national response events.

2. Donate blood. Hurricane Sandy has caused the cancellation of hundreds of blood drives throughout the northeast and this has had an impact on our national blood supply. To find the nearest blood drive, call us at 372-5800 or go to and click on “give blood.”

Bill Tucker is the executive director of the American Red Cross of Southwestern New York, a trained Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteer and a Community Emergency Response Team instructor.

He deployed to the Greater New York area on Oct. 31 as part of the Hurricane Sandy relief effort and is currently working in a mass care shelter in the Greater New York area.

Bill Tucker

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